The City Club of Cleveland

login Create an Account

private events
go

Not a Member?

Our members are champions of free speech. Join today!

join

Account Login

login

Forgot Password? Create an Account

Forgot Password

submit Cancel

Update Password

submit

blog

Want to know what is on our minds? Find blog posts written here, by the City Club staff, members, and partners. You'll find takes on current events, past forums, and issues surrounding Northeast Ohio. Read on for all things City Club.

« back to blog list

Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Transcription: The Faults in Our System: Transforming Juvenile Justice

City Club Staff

Transcription: The Faults in Our System: Transforming Juvenile Justice

To watch this forum, click here.

Dan Moulthrop

Good afternoon and welcome to the City Club of Cleveland, where we are devoted to conversations of consequence that help democracy thrive. Today's Friday, August 26. I'm Dan Moulthrop. I’m chief executive here and also a proud member. Our conversation today is part of our ongoing work with the Chuck and Char Fowler Family Foundation to put a focus on issues related to our criminal justice system. And today, we're talking about juvenile justice.

To set the stage I want to tell you a quick story about an event that planted the seed for this forum. I suspect much of our in-person audience is already aware of this event, but I'll share it for the benefit of our listening and our streaming audience. Back in May, the Public Safety Committee of Cleveland City Council held a meeting regarding juvenile justice and the misperception that there was an increase in crime committed by juveniles. The Cuyahoga County prosecutor was testifying before the committee. And there was a moment widely shared on social media—thanks to the Cleveland Documenters, and then also covered in the news media—in which Councilwoman Stephanie Howse, who's on our stage today, raising questions about root causes of violence and crime among youth. These were questions she'd raised in previous meetings. And while it would have been informative to hear the prosecutor provide his point of view on root causes, he seemed unable to understand her questions or the bearing that they had for his work and the work of his office. There were obviously a lot of issues at play in this interaction. But what we wanted to do today was take just an hour to talk about that question about root causes, and about what Cuyahoga County's juvenile justice system is doing to address those issues or even just to take them into account.

A few facts about our county's juvenile justice system: residents fund it to the tune of $50 million annually; about 2000 youth encounter the system through criminal charges each year, more than half from outside the city of Cleveland; over half are over 15 years old. And when it comes to the number of children actually in secure detention, we're actually talking about a pretty small number. In 2020, the average daily population was just 110. I got these from the 2020 annual report of our juvenile justice system. And if I got anything wrong, I hope somebody will correct the record.

All of that being said, let me introduce the panel and get this conversation going. Stephanie Howse who I mentioned earlier, represents Ward seven, which includes Asiatown, downtown, Hough, and St. Clair-Superior neighborhoods. She's a former state representative and she represented then some of those same neighborhoods along with some others. She won election to city council last year. Brooke Burns is managing counsel with the Youth Defense Department at the office of the Ohio public Defender and Leah Winsberg, staff attorney at the Children's Law Center Incorporated. Our moderator today is Piet van Lier. He's a former journalist who's now senior researcher at Policy Matters Ohio. And I should say too, that this isn't one of those “both sides” conversations today. That's kind of obvious by who we've got on the stage. But we're really trying to more deeply understand and give voice to this one perspective, we hope to have more points of view represented in ongoing conversations in the future. But if you have questions for our panelists, whether you're here in the room, or you're watching online or listening on W KSU, you can text those questions to 330-541-5794. And while you've got your phone in your hand, please silence it. And you can also tweet your questions at the City Club. And our staff will work them into the second half of the program, members and friends of the City Club of Cleveland. Please join me in welcoming our esteemed panel and Piet van Lier.

Piet Van Lier

Thank you. Thanks, Dan, for the introduction. And it's great to be here with all of you today. Dan already sort of set the stage for why we're here. I do want to add to that, you know, there's been a lot of reports over the past several months or years about the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center and the violence, staffing problems. Children kept in isolation, lack of access to school, and other developmental programming, even having a hard time getting to the bathroom when they do. So it's so clear that there's a really big disconnect between how our criminal legal system treats young people and what our young people need to thrive and survive in our communities around around Cleveland especially Cuyahoga County, right. So research we know research has shown that reacting with harsher sentences for children doesn't really make our community safer. We know what makes our community safer. It's providing the resources so that we have you know, good schools good health care, good jobs, you know, green space you and just that's what really will make community safe and make help our children thrive. So why do we keep doing the same thing? Alright. And that's what we're here to talk about. So I'd like to start with you, Councilmember Howse, you know, how would you talk about the overarching systemic issues that really trap our children in this system.

Councilwoman Stephanie Howse

So I'm gonna go back to just last week, those council members on a safety committee, we had a roundtable really try to focus on juvenile justice. And we had a young person there, and he started his story off like, Well, I grew up in a single home. My dad had me at two days old, and bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla. That's how you introduced yourself. He's 17 years old, dropped out into sixth grade was dealing with a lot of youth violence, robbing X, Y, and Z. If we as a community cannot think and understand the level, the triggering of the abandonment of the 17 year old, at two days old, with a father that probably was not prepared, right, to be a single parent, and how many times that that young boy would go into spaces where people never gave him the love and the empathy to understand all he wanted was his mama. That's what the system needs to do. This is not hard, it is not revolutionary. And if we those of us who have been put in positions of power, don't understand that we don't deserve to be here. And those of us who are in the seats, we have to push to love on our babies, he's still 17 That's all I wanted to do was just hug him. That's so many of our young people, they’re just hurting, and they're not little adults, and to get the system to recognize that. That's what we're here for.

Piet Van Lier

So we're gonna come back to like, what, how love translates into change, right. And so but I'd like to, you know, looking at Brooke, I imagine you're in court on an almost daily basis are working with people who are so what's your lens on this? How do you follow up on that?

Brooke Burns

I mean, I think that the connection of treating kids like kids, is what we're really missing in our system right now, annually, Ohio transfers about 200 or so kids to be prosecuted as adults. And many of those, most of those are through mandatory transfer. And so we're automatically saying at the onset, that we think these kids are irredeemable, and that they need to be in the adult system. And what's horrible about it is that in about 2019, the Campaign for Youth Justice put out a study that showed that Ohio is in the top five for disproportionate racial transfer of youth of color. And that Cleveland, sorry to say, leads the way. And that's because there's a lot of overcharging that happens here in Cleveland; we see justice done a completely different way in Cleveland than it is throughout the rest of the state. And so many of our high transfer numbers, and even our high state commitment numbers come from Cleveland. And so I think that that's really saying something because what's the statement we're saying in the city, at least, about how we treat our kids. And so I think that that's one thing is to understand how much we are over-prosecuting youth and treating them like grownups. What's interesting, too, is I think a lot of folks think mandatory transfer protects people, right protects the community. But most of the kids who are subjected to transfer actually spend less than five years in adult prison, which means many of them could have stayed in the youth system received treatment supports intervention, which the adult system just doesn't give. So not only are we treating these kids like grownups, but then we're not even giving them the resources to be able to be successful in a time period of their life when they're gonna get released. And they need that or they needed those interventions. So a lot of it's backwards, kind of the way that we look at juvenile offending. So I think that one of the biggest things for me is to see us dial back. And remember to utilize the resources we have because our state system can keep kids in the kid system. We don't have to over-prosecute, and treat most of these kids like grownups like we are.

Piet Van Lier

Leah, you come at from also from a statewide perspective, I know that mandatory transfer or bind over is a big issue for you. What's your take on like some of that big system issues that we were facing the state level?

Leah Winsberg

I am going to read this verbatim so that I don't get it wrong. I think I pulled a few quotes from youth who had been sent to the adult system and placed in adult prison who have been shared their stories that are reflected in their own voice and since we don't have that person I could have up here, I'm just going to start with this quote, because it touches on what both of you mentioned. “As I look at these young men, they are children. And as dysfunctional as they may be, there are still children. Yes, there may be penalties and perhaps punishment for crimes. But I think we focus too much on what happened and apply so little interest toward why it happened.”

And I think if our young people see that, and the rest of us can't figure it out, we have a problem. So you know, we have a history of taking an overly punitive response to youth misbehavior. And when we see our kids coming to the attention of the system, and we decide that they are not worthy of our rebuilt real rehabilitative services, they're not worthy of our time and not worthy of our interventions, and they should be thrown away, then, you know, that example is set that we have just decided we do not care what the problem is, we're just going to respond to the behavior. And we've decided that behavior makes you no longer a human being, it makes you no longer a child. And so when we talk about those overly punitive responses, transfer is, you know, the kind of the biggest way we see that. Cuyahoga County actually sends more kids to be tried and prosecuted as adults than any of the other large counties in Ohio combined. This is a choice. It's not that other counties aren't dealing with the same problems. It's how they choose to respond to it. So you know, in Cuyahoga County, what we're what we're seeing is more youth held in pretrial detention than any other county. Racial disparities are off the charts, we exceed the national rates when it comes to transfer and racial disparities. We have more children placed in the youth prison system in Ohio, consistently over the last 10 years, Ohio or Cuyahoga County has sent more kids to youth prison than than anywhere else. And so you know, what we're, what we're doing is we're ignoring the established science on brain development when we respond that way. And we are also really ignoring what's been put in place that we know works for public safety, as well as youth success, we're just throwing those away in favor of while this rhetoric tells us that we have a problem, and this is how we solve it, and we're ignoring the research the science and the human piece. And that's why we're not seeing a change. And so when we talk about that, you know, the bind over and the over incarceration of our children, it also has to consider how are those children treated once they're in those settings, because in order to be successful when they come home, especially in, you know, five years in an adult prison, the impact and the toll that takes on that child and their family and the community at large, that is making all of us less safe.

Piet Van Lier

Thank you. I'm so clear theme here, right, treating children as children, giving them love and support compassion, rather than punishment. So Councilmember Howse I mean, I think you've talked about the Loving Cities Index. And like, that speaks to the question of how do we even before we get to the point, any interaction with the criminal legal system? How do we support families, children? So if you could talk about how Cleveland stacks up, or where you see possibility for change there.

Councilwoman Stephanie Howse

So the Loving Cities Index is a framework is really from the Schott Foundation, where basically, you are looking at cities from a holistic models. Really a loving city basically has state and local policies that support families based on a framework of care, commitment, stability and capacity. Right? So you look at everything from lead poisoning, air toxins, is there affordable housing? Do they actually have supports when you look at opportunities for honor classes and immersion experiences? Do you provide restorative justice and healing? There are 25 indicators. We do not have that framework here in Cleveland. but I am happy to say that we have a working group that is actually starting to look at that. And really the reason why I think those of us in Cleveland City Council started to look at this is because we know things are not working. And we really want to get out of this narrative of talking about bad schools versus looking at our community as a whole, and all the things that we need to do to make sure that, again, children and families are supported. And when things that are identified as deficits, we as a community will put the work in to create improve those deficits, so our children can be whole, restored, and actually become thriving adults.

Piet Van Lier

Yeah. There's also this idea of the misconception of public safety, you know, that both Brooke, you and Leah have talked about and if you want to speak to that, like how do we how can we start thinking differently about that and what would that mean for you all?

Brooke Burns

So I think that typically how we handle the criminal justice system or criminal legal system, is to respond to the act, as Leah said earlier that respond to the act that that's done instead of responding to the person. And one thing that is really unique about kids, and I love this, Lawrence Steinberg has done a lot of work on adolescent brain development and understanding what's going on inside kids brains. And my favorite fact, and I love to tell this to my students and my own kids try to remember this is that kids brains aren't done cooking, until they're about 25, 26 years old. And so if we apply this adult thinking to how we decide to respond to a criminal violation, then we are ignoring what the science says about them. And what we found or what Lawrence found, because I didn't research it, but what we have found is that most kids who have committed violations of the revised code actually will age out of criminogenic behavior around between 21 and 24 years old. And that is without the system even doing anything. And so I think that we have lulled ourselves into this false sense of security, believing that putting kids into the legal system is what is going to fix them, when in reality, what we see is over incarcerating youth, even if you're sending them to DYS, so a state facility, holding those youth too long actually increases recidivism; sending kids to adult prison increases recidivism by I want to say about 36%. Kids who are sent to adult prison within I think, five times higher within the first 48 hours to be sexually assaulted. So we have completely flipped out how we look at care and rehabilitation with kids. And so when we think about rehabilitation, what we want and when we want public safety, we should be giving the kids these positive incentives, established practices, best practices, but that's not really what we're doing. And so if we want to see safer communities, then we have to rethink how we handled juvenile justice issues.

Leah Winsberg

And I think it's really important to remember who these kids are that are coming to the attention that system and what needs they have because, you know, if we look at it, the kids in the adult prison system have nearly double the rate of mental illness that the adults and adult present half. I think it's like 66% for kids and 35% for adults. And when our kids in Cuyahoga County come to the attention of the juvenile court for their first time, about 68% of them have had prior involvement in the child welfare system. 70% of the kids at our state prison system in Ohio for youth have a qualifying illness to be on the mental health caseload. And so when we look at that even deeper out of the girls, 100% of the females in our youth prison system in Ohio are on the mental health caseload. So when we talk about who are these kids coming to the attention of the system, and what keeps us safe, and how do we work with them, it's not to punish them. Kids don't respond to that that brain development that Brooke touched on, you know. The reason that it that this “tough on crime” is not the solution of public safety is because kids brains cannot absorb that deterrence theory, either for that individual to make sure that they don't continue. Engaging in those unsafe behaviors or for the general public of children doesn't work because kids don't weigh those cost benefits and those risks, they don't have the brain capacity to engage in that benefit and proportional analysis before they engage in a behavior. You know, we know from that science that we can expect kids to be impulsive, expect them to take risks, expect them to engage in behaviors that seek rewards and that immediate gratification. And being in the presence of peers, not only increases their chance that they'll engage in behavior that they wouldn't otherwise. But even if their peers aren't engaging that behavior, they're willing to take more risks. So we have to be thoughtful about how we respond to those kids and proportional when we respond, because even putting them through that system. If they're if they're likely to age out of that behavior on their own, and we put them into the system and we're making it worse, then that system itself is making us less safe. So we have to think if we're putting them through the system, how can we minimize the harm that our interventions and our contact is having with these children and families?

Piet Van Lier

So Councilmember Howse, my understanding is that there were systems in place, we were moving in a different in the right direction at one point in Cleveland and Cuyahoga County. And that has shifted. And can you talk more about that?

Councilwoman Stephanie Howse

And this is one of the things where elections have opportunities and consequences, and no one wants to talk about and this is one of the things, I think, in communities we have to think about. And what happened as everybody knows, the former prosecutor Tim McGinty—I know there was a lot of angst because of the 137 shots, rightly so, at the same time and the transition for the McGuinty administration to the current prosecutor. Literally all the work that was done, specifically looking at our children's reducing bind over, was thrown out the way. There was a lot of work done Duane Deskins, who is really known to have centered our young people. It is all gone. Currently in Cuyahoga County, under this current administration and the prosecutor's office. So we really have to think holistically, not just on one things, but on a multitude of levels of what we can do to ensure the progress that we are working is maintained, and not necessarily just being so tunnel vision on one thing, that we lose sight of everything, and now we have gone backwards. That is not just an opinion, it is a fact. It's a fact. And people have an issue with people bringing it up, right, because most people don't know that. Most people don't know, the lack of diversity, the lack the lack of diversity and experience, and gender and cultures that is happening. And I'm talking about the prosecutor's office. But again, it's our criminal justice system, right? From the first time that someone gets arrested, right? What happens to them, we don't know, because the data is not collected, what happens then who gets diversion who doesn't, who gets most people actually plead out and all that stuff, who gets it? Who does it? What happens when someone goes into a judge's courtroom, who gets treated, who gets what sentence and who knows? We don't, we don't know any of this information. And the fact that we should be at a time demanding this information, people should not have to ask for public records. To get information, we should know what people are doing day in and day out so that we can hold them accountable. Right now, a lot of this stuff is done in secrecy. So when they go to the ballot box, it's only based on your name, not on your work. And I'm sorry, we can't do recalls on people, right? With the stuff that we are doing. And the systems have long-lasting ramifications. And many of us just don't know, because we deal with life. And if the information was more readily available to us, we will be able to have much more informed decisions to get people who are going to truly work in partnership with us versus working against us.

Piet Van Lier

So councilmember mentioned bind over again, which I know both of you have spoken to but it with that or even with other aspects, what ripple effects have you seen coming from in Cuyahoga County as a result of that change and other changes and, and the issues that the councilmember raised?

Brooke Burns

So I think one of the things that's important to remember when thinking about transfer, and how much these decisions impact the system. So mandatory transfer is driven solely by prosecutorial discretion. So kids who are eligible for mandatory transfer, the only thing they get is a probable cause hearing. So once the state decides that they would like to try this young person as an adult, that is all the child gets, is one little hearing, the judge doesn't get to look at this youth’s background doesn't get to look at their needs, doesn't get to look at, you know how many times they've been in the system. And so we actually have a system that does that in Ohio law, it's called discretionary transfer. And that gives juvenile courts this opportunity to take this deep dive into this huge background. But right now, most of our transfer statewide is mandatory. And because of that, I think that's part of how this this intersection between our mandatory transfer statute and how justice is done here in Cleveland is causing these numbers when we have said Cuyahoga County transfers more youth than all the other big counties combined. That is true and has been true for a long time.

And so really, folks don't realize that this tough on crime with kids in particular, is not just prosecutor-informed, but it's prosecutor-decided. Judges to have no hand once the prosecutor says we want to bind this youth over and they're eligible for mandatory transfer judges can do nothing about it. And so it creates this really heavy burden, right, and it's hard to get those kids back. The number of children I've come into contact with and DRC, my office, we talked to every single child who's committed to a state youth prison or the state adult prison system. And the number of kids I see specifically from here, who it was their very first time getting in trouble and the system decided to treat them like a grown up. And it's astounding because we have the resources to treat these kids like kids and to give them these pro-social interventions. And for some reason, here in Cleveland, that doesn't happen for a lot of kids. And unfortunately, a lot of that is determined by the child's race, despite having less than 31% of the population of color in Cleveland. I want to say one of the most recent years of transfer, it was 90.4% of the children who are subjected to transfer are black. And that's not because black kids commit more crimes than white kids. It's just not true. Annie E Casey has tons of statistics that show crime rates among children, regardless of race, are relatively the same. It's how we choose to treat them that's different.

Piet Van Lier

Building on that… So what does it mean? So what about conditions of incarceration? When you're talking about adult versus youth prisons? I mean, we have three youth prisons in Ohio. But for those who go into the adult, what don't they get? What happens to them differently? Yes. So

Leah Winsberg

I think a big part of this conversation on why bind over transferred to adult court makes us so much less safe is what kids are exposed to and denied when they're in an adult facility. So Brooke mentioned one, you know, they're five times more likely to be sexually assaulted. They're also twice as likely kids in an adult facility versus a youth facility to be beaten or attacked with a weapon, they're eight times more likely to commit suicide. I mean, these are startling numbers, our youth are not doing well, in adult facilities, we have to find a different way. But they're also not doing great in the youth facilities, the way we have them set up either. I would, you know, argue that it is at least designed and intended to be more therapeutic and rehabilitative in nature. However, when kids are coming out of either a local detention center or a youth prison facility, they're going to have a number of needs that they didn't have going in. And that is because they're living with constant fear of victimization, abuse, maltreatment. And it's not necessarily an indictment on Cuyahoga County, although we do have a history of failing to remedy our issues and our local detention center. But this is present in facilities, youth facilities across the nation. And these reports and constant corroboration of these incidents has really existed since the beginning of time in these facilities. So we have to find a different way. The facilities need to be therapeutic, they need to be restorative, they need to be not only trauma-informed, but trauma-responsive. The kids coming to the attention of those facilities have experienced numerous traumas, most of them. The there's an ACES [Adverse Childhood Experiences] report that was just released last year, that shows reports from high schoolers in Cleveland and a good portion of them are experiencing some really, really difficult challenges in their home and community. And so when we place kids in a facility, what happens is, they're, they're denied, you know, a lot of family contact that they need. They're also, you know, denied meaningful programming that is going to be responsive and family centered and therapeutic in nature. But in the adult system, they're denied all access to age-appropriate services, or developmentally based services. And so when we see the difference in what the youth system offers, it's at least intended to work with that population. When kids go into an adult facility, they're often kept in solitary for either their own protection from the adults, or to self-protect from the victimization that they know is real. And they're not given those tools to be able to advance their education to address their needs. And so when they come home, they're dealing with all of the collateral consequences of a conviction, along with what they've endured during their incarceration. And so we have to be mindful of if we're, if we're saying we're treating you like an adult, and we're going to expose you to all of these harms. We need to be mindful that when they return, we are all going to deal with the consequences of that.

Piet Van Lier

So I think we have time for one more question before we go to the Q&A from the audience. So here we are today. And as Dan mentioned earlier, this is perhaps the first of a series of conversations. So who else needs to be in this room? You know, that public safety committee meeting and we've talked about prosecutors, judges, there's the state, the Department of Youth Services, there's those the adult prison system… who should be in this conversation?

Councilwoman Stephanie Howse

So I think we need to bring people who are really steeped in healing and restoration, the people in places who have been doing healing work, healing work, we need to bring them to the fold to learn from them, so that we can better understand how do you really mean broken hearts and broken spirits? I think we can learn from them. We don't talk about healing and restoration enough to the tune that people have been traumatized. And I think it really can even help many of us in these positions, just open our hearts to like loving like, you know, Leah talked about when when our young people are coming back to us how much support that they need, but that's not what they get. Right? We turn a blind eye, we don't put them out, oh, you know, he she did such as this. And you know, it's another it's the beginning of that scarlet letter on them that they can never get over overcome, you know, to just live a life and so we need the those that have cultural practices of healing, to come to the fold, lifting their voices up so that we can learn and truly turn our communities around. That's my perspective.

Brooke Burns

And I think we need to have lawmakers in this discussion, because folks don't realize that part of the reason why prosecutors get to control transfer is because it's written in the law that way. And oftentimes, those statutes are written in a vacuum without any affected people, like there are not folks who look like me. And many of those spaces, being able to speak to these issues. And so bringing lawmakers to the table to let them actually hear from affected communities hear from affected youth, I think is one of the steps to getting that space to be in a more informed place when they are writing laws. So my office doesn't have to then litigate those things, and ask for them to be found unconstitutional.

Leah Winsberg

So I think two things one is young people who, either them or their family who can really provide that personal and human perspective, because we lose sight of that so often, that these are children, these are people and they are just as deserving and needing of our love and support as everybody else in our community. And to hear from them what they needed and didn't get when they came in contact with the system, so that we can really figure out how to do it right. And I also think, to be quite honest, we haven't figured out how to spend our money in places where it matters. We spend, you know, like, over. Right? So kind of just somebody who's guiding the conversation around how do we actually fiscally make these things happen? How do we shift our investments from over $400,000 for the cost of a youth incarceration to under $10,000, for these family-based and therapeutic interventions for a kid? How do we make that shift? How do we get kids to stay in their community instead of going into a facility and how do we actually transition that as our community with the funds that we have? It's there, we just need to reallocate it.

Piet Van Lier

Alright, then you've got your future session set up. So okay, we're about to begin the audience Q&A. I'm Pete van Lier of Policy Matters Ohio. I'm moderating today's conversation on Cuyahoga County's juvenile justice system. Joining us on stage here at the City Club, Stephanie Howse who represents Ward 7. She's a former state rep representing some of those same neighborhoods and others. She won election to city council last year. Brooke Burns is managing counsel, US Defense Department with the office of the Ohio Public Defender. And Lea Winsberg is Staff Attorney of the Children's Law Center. And she's based here in Cleveland. We welcome questions from everyone, City Club members, guests, and those joining via livestream at Cityclub.org, or radio broadcast at 89.7. Ideastream Public Media. If you'd like to tweet a question, please tweet it @theCityClub. You can also text your questions to 330-541-5794, and our staff will try to work it into the program. So may we have the first question, please.

Audience Member

Good afternoon. I just need to say I'm so glad that this is happening today. I'm here representing a group called Justice for our Youth Task Force. And our sole purpose is to advocate for the youth in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Detention Center. And in our last meeting, we heard from a teacher there. And I had been told that there was a state law that young people should not be in a detention center longer than 90 days. And we were told that a youth has been there for 1582 days. Now, what they also said was when young people go there, they haven't been convicted of anything. They're simply there waiting to see what's going to happen. So imagine waiting that long. And when you go in, you may be completely innocent. And when you come out who knows what you're going to be. And so my question is, how does that happen? Who was responsible for keeping young people in the detention center for 1582 days when state law I think says they shouldn't be there more than 90. So my question is, how does that happen? And who's responsible?

Leah Winsberg

So I think that's a really great question and talking about that transparency of what's actually happening. And opening up that divide of a lot of folks don't know. And as Dan mentioned in his intro, the latest numbers did show about an average of 110 youth in the local detention center. We're at about 150 plus. And so the detention center is full of children who are waiting a resolution of their case. And while they're there, they're intended to stay only for 90 days, and that's what the law says as far as the time that a child can be held in detention. However, the exception to that is, first of all, there's no speedy trial statute for Children in Ohio. So whereas adults when they're detained pretrial, their case has to move at a certain pace, otherwise, they have to be gone. That doesn't exist for children. A lot of the protections that exist for adults don't apply to youth. So that's one issue is cases can linger for so long because there's no statute that mandates they be resolved in a certain period of time. The other exception is that when the prosecutor decides to ask for that child to be bound over or transferred to the adult court, which is wholly within their discretion, they can charge it as a mandatory bond over or if the child is 14 or older, and is accused of any felony, the prosecutor can ask for them to be bound over or transferred on a discretionary. And so when those kids are before the court, the juvenile court judge has the option of holding them in local detention throughout the entire pendency of their case, that means the decision on whether or not they stay in the juvenile system, and if they're sent to the adult court, throughout the pendency of their adult court and trial. And so you have a disparity between kids who are lingering in detention. And this is true statewide, the kids who aren't facing the prospect of being transferred to adult court, their average length of stay falls within that 90 days as intended. Kids facing bind over at least in Cuyahoga County, there stays between 203 100 days on average, it's a huge gap. And so when detention is intended to be that short term, stay that quick placement and release back to the community, but in fact, lasts so much longer for these kids who are in peak adolescent development, we have to think about what what's happening to them while they're there. They're not getting therapeutic services. And they're certainly not getting access to the kind of treatment that they need. And so that's, I don't know if that fully answered your question. But that's, that's the exception to that 90 day rule.

Brooke Burns

And I would just add, often, what we see in Cleveland, we don't necessarily see this in other cities as much is many times a child's adult case will not go forward because they are waiting to prosecute another adult, or someone else from that case, and they're holding that youth contingent upon their testimony in that other case, and so oftentimes, when I see a span of time that exceeds 250, 300 days, it's because they don't want to enter a conviction and give that child that sentence. They promised them until they get that child to actually testify, which is a horrible practice, right. And so we have kids who come to us from Cleveland with years of credit, and I'm like, how did this happen? And it's because they said, well, they were waiting on this adult trial to go forward. And I was a witness. And so I had to sit in detention that length of time. So we see that oftentimes here in Cleveland.

Councilwoman Stephanie Howse

Say, you know, today, like, we just learned something new today. I'm like, my mind is blown right now. Go ahead.

Audience Member

Thank you. Good afternoon, everyone. I sit back and I'm in awe of this conversation. So much going through my head right now. I'm gonna start by saying it's not a question, more so a comment. First and foremost, I want to thank the panelists for having this discussion. And I tried to not to make it about me, but it is me. Everything that you guys are talking about is me. I was that 16-year-old kid that got bound over from the juvenile to adult prison and did almost 20 years in prison. This conversation is me, people in this room, my challenge to you is more so be intentional and a call to action. Look into those stories, right? There are opportunities for you to understand, actually raise your hand I mean, people actually visit inside of prison minute to one a juvenile justice system their thing right, be more intentional understanding what into what Councilperson Howse mentioned about, understand the why—why are these kids acting this way? Right. And it's not because of the crime is often would you say about the neglect that's taking place at home and everything right? So I totally agree with you guys. I want to give you your flowers right now. Thank you for having this conversation. But in this room, please be intentional and looking into what you can do to change the system. So thank you again.

Audience Member

Oh, good afternoon. My name is Timothy Roberts. You have my esteemed council person as the person who is leading this charge. I'm a former school leader, and former police officer. As I was talking to my friend here at my table, we have to understand the importance of using the word “love.” We just simply have to use that word more than we've ever used it before. At this present time, our young people don't hear that. They don't feel it. And we need to put our arms around our young people, if you want, and go and visit schools. That's where you can find the answers to a lot of the problems that are happening with our young people. Watch those young people come into your school with their issues, and how do we navigate them through those issues will help us not be in the place that we're in right now, having these type of conversations. So for those that have visited juvenile facilities, I would beg you to spend as much time as you can, visiting your neighborhood schools, and finding out what is going on with those people that have our kids for six to seven to eight hours a day, more time is spent with those teachers and those counselors than they spend with their parents. And so I would encourage you, as a school leader, as a former school leader, and a former police officer, visit your schools and ask those kids what is really affecting their lives. And they'll give you some of the solutions that we're looking for today. I thank you for having this panel. These are the types of panels that we need to have. Because our kids need us more than at any time. They need us more now. So I thank you, again for inviting us to have these kinds of conversations.

Audience Member

I’m not this nervous in the pulpit. I just want to say I really appreciate this conversation today. I’ve been a therapist now being a social worker now, having 28 years of early childhood education, operating a daycare center within the Glenville neighborhood, I want to say it's the love that we have for those parents, and helping those parents understand that developmental stage of their children, and not being discouraged that your child have just a mental health issue. Instead, they need love in the home. And so research has shown that they are helped better by African Americans, seeing that, it shows that it is difficult for African Americans to get to the table with that and have accredited African American mental health services service our children. And it is difficult for us to get at the table to be a part of those services opportunities here in the city of Cleveland. And so I want to encourage everyone that when you know that you have that availability for those African American services, please reach out to them because they can culturally connect quicker and kind of understand those issues that the councilwoman was talking about, that home is what's important. And so we have seen that 28 years in the Glenville neighborhood, watching the children develop differently when that home is addressed with those issues.

Audience Member

Good afternoon. Thank you for being here. And thank everyone in the room for caring enough to be here. My mind is blown as well, councilwoman… My name is Kim Brown. I actually live in Akron, prior to living in Akron, I did have a stint in Cleveland Heights. But I've been in Philadelphia for 20 plus years. And I've always worked with young people, but on a volunteer basis. I come from corporate, and then I went into nonprofit. So one of the things that I like to do when I leave a room, and all of the people are convened is leave with a what do we do? I mostly, from fundraisers, but also from friends, know a lot of elected officials in Summit County, Akron area, a lot of judges, and I sat there and I said, I'm going to make sure that every single one of them gets a copy of this discussion today. My question is, what can we insist upon? Because people do answer to the general public. And those of you that are in position, what can we insist upon, so that this does not continue to be the frightening and dangerous cycle that it is, I see it happening from the home. Even when you mentor, they have to go home, and I see the trauma. I see the tears and your heart bleeds. But then once they're turned over, I've seen the results. So if you could just advise us today with marching orders on what we can insist upon from the people who report to us. Thank you.

Brooke Burns

One thing. I've so many ideas, but one, in particular, a very actionable thing. Right now there's a bill pending in the Ohio legislature House Bill 500. And it might get melded into another bill. But you can reach out to the people who represent your districts and say, we want you to support passing the elimination of mandatory transfer. What the bill asks to happen is that every single youth who's eligible for transfer have that occur with a juvenile court judge taking an in-depth look into those youths backgrounds, so that, as I mentioned before, those kids who just get that one probable cause hearing, the bill asks for that type of transfer to go away, and instead, give juvenile court judges the opportunity to make those case by case determinations, which should be what happens in juvenile court, instead of kids being automatically treated like adults. So I say, reach out to your folks who represent your districts and tell them you want to see House Bill 500. Or if it doesn't happen this session, whatever the next bill is, when it gets introduced, you want to see it passed.

Councilwoman Stephanie Howse

So going along on that thing, she talked about a bill getting passed in the Ohio General Assembly, I will let everybody know, this year is an election year for the members of the Ohio General Assembly. So I'm being dead serious. And I'm going to ask you and task you with is making sure five people not only are registered to vote, but they are actually voting. That means with that fateful five that you have, because we have early voting here in Ohio, that you will get that say for five, you're going to host a dinner for them, you're going to make sure everybody brings their handy dandy paper ballot. And you're going to talk about whoever, wherever they are. No one is gonna treat us right. You got to make them treat me right, right. So we've got to force people, and I know, people, y'all, it’s rough here in Ohio. We don't ever think we're gonna see glory. But we can. I'm saying we can—maybe we can just flip one seat in Cuyahoga County, right? Our babies deserve that. These rules, like when people say things can't change, I don't believe that this system was created by man. And it's gonna be changed by the people. But we got to play in these rules. Voting is a part of the rules. So please get your faithful five votes, grid some people and get people that are unbelievers, we can get the governorship and the statewide office but we can also make some progress in the state house because they don't have redistricting. It's a whole nother we got to do but give our people and vote. Thank you.

City Club staff

I've got a question from our virtual audience. How impactful Do you believe it would be to have non police crisis teams in our schools with restorative practices to help prevent that first interaction with the criminal justice system?

Councilwoman Stephanie Howse

It is vitally important. So again, when we went through our budget process, here in the city of Cleveland, when we spend the majority, a significant amount of our discretionary dollars to our safety force. I voted against that budget because I oppose that view. I believe that you cannot fund our law department, our police department to the tune of like $230 million, and then have a department of aging funded at $1.8 million. You cannot fund your safety department at $230 million and recreation of $15 million. We are so out of balance. And again, when you have ideas that you talk about crisis intervention teams that are going out during crisis, it is needed. I know my colleague Charles Slife and others on Cleveland City Council are looking at these things. I'm also going to give a shout out to attorney Ayesha Bell Hardaway—she has been working with Mr. Michael Anderson, who is the uncle of Tanisha Anderson and came to me talking about Tanisha’s Law. If those who don't know Tanisha was murdered during a mental health crisis in Ward 7. And people are bringing solutions to the table of not criminalizing when stuff goes wrong, but having a real mental health crisis trauma-informed action approach, and making sure that we can address a crisis properly for those who are trying to do it and not the militarization that we currently have going on.

Brooke Burns

And a lot of folks don't realize that policing in schools is now one of the biggest feeders into the youth justice system. And it's one that, again, I keep harping on this, but it's true, but it disproportionately impacts youth of color. It disproportionately impacts youth who are LGBTQIA plus. And these are problems that we used to just handle with Go to the principal's office, you get a detention, but now because we have SROs in school, and that could be a whole topic for another day. But because we have this space in schools, we now have the school-to-prison pipeline being that much more open and that much more easily accessible. And so if those dollars were actually put into green space—I think Piet mentioned green space earlier—play inequity is one of the largest drivers to have systemic, disproportionate impacts of youth of color, because even how we see kids play inside school is dictated by the race that they are. And so kids can be engaging in horseplay. And if they're black youth or brown youth, they're seen as being criminally active versus white youth are then labeled as horse playing. And it's one of those inequities that pervades our system. I could talk about it all day. But yes, treat kids like kids, especially in the school system, where we make them go, and we tell them, they have to be there, that should not be at this huge gateway into the justice system, like it is.

Audience Member

Just grateful to be here. This is amazing. I'm wondering if the data already has projected that they're in prison before they actually are in prison? What I mean is the certain factors that come together, that has already determined, the one thing that has been a running theme is love, and community. Where else outside of the importance of the school system that we go to them. And where would you suggest, so we have the school, they're gathered there, do we know where else they're gathered in the community, so that we all have a certain presence there, play flag football or something, some checkers, I don't know. It's like, community there, or the community that they go to. And so if the data is showing that what's going on in our communities, and homes, will lead the prison, I'm wondering if they already are in prison.

Leah Winsberg

So I would challenge that a little bit just in the fact that I don't think the factors that kids come in or to the attention of the court lead them there; I think it's our response to their needs that put them into that pipeline, either, you know, they're not allowed to play there. They're not allowed to make mistakes. They're not allowed to just kind of follow that normal trajectory of adolescence. And instead we criminalize their mental health; we criminalize their trauma response; we criminalize their detachment from school because they have a learning disability that's not been identified. And that's how they're acting out. So I think that, you know, you'd be challenged to find any kid in the adult system who doesn't have a number of stories behind how they got there. But it's all of the failures that we didn't respond appropriately to those needs that place them there. And it's not that their risk factors, I guess, would lead them to that path. So, you know, I think that in a number of ways, finding, getting proximate to our kiddos, you know, finding a way to create those safe spaces for them to make mistakes and be children, and to learn and be redirected by safe caring adults. A lot of kids are missing, having two parents that necessarily are there to guide or having a neighborhood where they feel supported and safe. And so they figure out ways to manage that on their own. So if we can provide that, that extra support and give them those safe spaces, it would go a long way. And I know the Boys and Girls Club here locally does a phenomenal job of connecting with kids, and providing them those safe spaces and caring adults that they have that relationship with that builds and helps guide them through the tough years of adolescence so that they're not unfortunately, being, you know, surveilled, 24/7 and falling into that other trap.

Councilwoman Stephanie Howse

And I will also just say, you be the safe space. See, I remember that people think I was in the sixth grade. Me and a couple of my classmates I spent, I spent the night at my teacher's house. How many times how many kids right now can give you the opportunity to spend a night at a teacher's house. We think that is taboo. We think that is crazy. Because we criminalize everybody. I remember growing up in church we had you know, cool, older 2-somethings that get a group of girls just from the church to spend a night at that house. You be the safe space. Don't let the rules block you from loving on our people. You be the safe space.

Dan Moulthrop

Okay, I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I really want to continue this conversation for the rest of the day. But unfortunately, we're at the end of the hour. I want to thank Councilwoman Howse, Brooke Burns of the Ohio of the Ohio Public Defender's Office, Leah Winsberg from the Children's Law Center and our moderator City Club member Piet van Lier. Please join me in thanking them. Our radio audience should be aware that that was a standing ovation. Also, thanks to our community partners, the ACLU of Ohio. The Legal Aid Society policy matters Ohio towards employment in Case Western Reserve University's Mandel School for the Applied Social Sciences and the Schubert Center for Child studies. I mentioned earlier that this is part of our ongoing work with the Fowler Family Foundation to focus conversation on our criminal justice system. The next forum in this series will be on November 4, a very different topic. We're talking with leadership from the Cleveland division of polices fourth district and community members about how empathy and love can be instrumental to cultural change inside the police department. You can find out more about that and other upcoming forums such as our county executive debate at our website. That brings us to the end of our forum again, thank you once again to our panelists and our moderator. Thank you members and friends of the City Club. I'm Dan Moulthrop. Our forum is now adjourned.

Please login to post a comment

Want to know who is speaking next at the City Club? Sign up here.

Slice 1 Created with Sketch.

Our New Address

1317 Euclid Avenue, Suite 100
Cleveland, Ohio 44115

The City Club of Cleveland building
x

Photo Gallery

1 of 22